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PRAGUE

Located in southeastern Lincoln County, Prague is situated at the junction of U.S. Highways 62 and 377 on land that was formerly part of the Sac and Fox Reservation, opened by a land run on September 22, 1891. Prague was settled primarily by Czechs. The town was incorporated in 1902 on land originally owned by Eva Barta and named by her after Prague, Czechoslovakia. Through the efforts of town developer E. L. Conklin the Fort Smith and Western Railroad located its coal chute and train depot in Prague when it extended its line to the town. The railroad brought rapid growth to the agricultural region, with cotton as the major crop. Like many settlements that bordered the "dry" Indian Territory, the sale of liquor was an important business until 1907 statehood when alcohol was prohibited. A 1907 population of 998 rose to 1,127 by 1920 and to 1,546 by 1950. The Oklahomski Noviny served the Czech residents in early years, and other local newspapers through the years included the Patriot, the News, the Record, the News-Record, and the Times-Herald.

Although Prague remained a farming community at the turn of the twenty-first century, industry and commerce had been added to its economic base. The community celebrates its Czech heritage through the annual Kolache Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors. A monument to Olympic Gold Metal Winner Jim Thorpe, who was born near Prague, is located at the Prague Historical Museum grounds. Artist Olinka Hrdy received the Letzieser Gold Medal for Art from the University of Oklahoma and her work, including mural paintings, has been exhibited in major U.S. cities and in Paris, France. Prague is also home to the National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague, located in St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church. Prague City Hall and Jail (NR 98000732) and ZCBJ Lodge No. 46 (Bohemian Hall, NR 84003138) are listed in the National Register of Historical Places. The population climbed to 2,208 in 1980 and peaked in 1990 at 2,308. At the turn of the twenty-first century Prague had 2,138 residents and maintained a council-manager form of government.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Blake Gumprecht, "A Saloon on Every Corner: Whiskey Towns of Oklahoma Territory, 1889-1907," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 74 (Summer 1996). Lincoln County, Oklahoma History (Chandler, Okla.: Lincoln County Historical Society, 1988). "Prague," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Roger Pritchett

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